2009 Los Angeles Auto Show: Preview

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2009 Los Angeles Auto Show GM Car Hero

2009 Los Angeles Auto Show GM Car Hero

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Only a handful of U.S. auto shows count as important. Detroit, in January, is one; historically, New York in April has been another. But the up-and-comer is the Los Angeles Auto Show, which now occurs in late November or early December and focuses on green cars of all stripes: hybrids, electric cars, clean diesels, even vehicles powered by ethanol, natural gas, and hydrogen.

We'll cover all the green-car events from LA for you, starting tomorrow. The show is open to the public from December 4 to 13.

Meanwhile, here's our preview of selected cars and events we'll see at the 2009 LA Auto Show. We've broken down this preview into several pages:

Check back early and often for more!

2009 Los Angeles Auto Show: Small Cars

While President Barack Obama announced new and more stringent fuel economy standards this spring, consumer tastes have been moving toward smaller cars during most of the past decade. The LA Auto Show will see three crucial cars unveiled.

Ford, for one, believes that small cars and crossovers will be the largest part of the market by 2013. And that's why one of the most important new cars to be unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show will be the company's first subcompact in more than a decade.

2011 Ford Fiesta

Ford has confirmed that the European-styled Fiesta sedan and hatchback will make their U.S. debut at the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show. Signifying its seriousness about the subcompact sector, Ford plans to build the car in North America.

Since Ford started promoting the car back in March by choosing 100 "Fiesta Movement Agents" to post and tweet about the car, more than 50,000 people have expressed interest in the Fiesta. Most important, 97% of them do not currently drive a Ford of any kind.

We've driven the 2011 Fiesta in its European version, and found it very good. The U.S.-spec cars are expected to feature a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, which should ensure enough pep for the American market and put the Fiesta among the most fuel efficient non-hybrids on offer.

Ford will offer its Sync communications and entertainment interface as well. We'll bring you many more details on the two new 2011 Fiesta models just as soon as we can.

2011 Chevrolet Cruze

The final production version of Chevrolet's most important new car this year will show up in Los Angeles before it goes on sale next summer. While the Volt extended-range electric car gets more attention, the 2011 Cruze is a vital vehicle if Chevy is to regain any traction in the competitive market for compact cars.

It will "eventually" replace the aging and uncompetitive Chevrolet Cobalt, which we called one of our least favorite green cars. The Cruze has more sophisticated styling language, a far more upscale interior, and details almost like those of a luxury car, GM stylists say.

The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze offers a 1.8-liter four rated at 136 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque as the base engine. But far more interesting is the optional Ecotec engine, which is smaller, at 1.4 liters, but more powerful: 138 horsepower and a much beefier 148 pound-feet of torque. The power comes from the combination of direct injection and turbocharging, and it's possible that engine could return as much as 40 miles per gallon in the EPA highway cycle.

2011 Mazda2

While subcompact hatchbacks remain a small piece of the U.S. market, Mazda's still keen on capturing its slice of future sales. So while the Ford Fiesta makes its way to market, the 2011 Mazda2--which is based on the same "platform"--is getting a showcase in LA as well.

The same Fiesta understructure is covered with a zoomy Mazda body here, lightly restyled with Mazda's "smile" front grille and bumper treatment.

The Mazda2's lightweight body, excellent handling, and good fuel efficiency even in a class of gasoline-sippers should make it a sporty alternative to the Honda Fit and the forthcoming 2012 Volkswagen Polo.

Going on sale in the fall of 2010, the 2011 Mazda2 is widely expected to sticker at a base price of less than $15,000.

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